Windows, art from closed churches find new life in Braintree church

Windows and artwork from two closed churches have found new life in Braintree’s St. Francis of Assisi Church.

The pieces were incorporated into a recently completed, new elevator annex that was blessed by South Region Bishop John A. Dooher Nov. 9.

There are four stained glass windows from Sacred Heart Church in Lawrence and a mosaic of angels announcing the birth of Jesus to sleeping shepherds from Blessed Sacrament in Jamaica Plain, said Father Kevin M. Sepe, the pastor of St. Francis.

The parish paid for the museum-quality transportation and installation and a fee for the items’ storage, he said. The storage fees are nominal, but are enough so that the archdiocese does not operate the program at a loss.

Father Sepe said the bishop made the wonderful connection of the occasion with the themes of St. Francis and the rebuilding of the Church.

The ceremony took place on the Feast of the Dedication of the St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome, the bishop said in his remarks that day.

St. Francis said he heard a voice tell him: “Francis, rebuild my Church,” as he stood before a crucifix in an abandoned chapel in Assisi, which the saint took to mean the chapel itself.

Later when St. Francis and his band approached Pope Innocent III to request official recognition, the pope recognized St. Francis as the man whom he had seen in his dream the night before, the bishop said. In the pope’s dream, a poor looking man was holding up the basilica by himself as it collapsed.

The elevator annex is part of a larger construction project at the church, said Father Sepe.

In addition to the new elevator, there is a new entrance on the left hand side, the restoration of the sanctuary floor with Italian porcelain tiles, which reflect the floor’s original style and condition, he said. All of the restrooms in the building have been redone and they have installed heated pipes beneath the walkways to melt ice and snow.

The pastor said as the project came together, he accessed a special Web site for pastors where items from closed churches are displayed and catalogs to find windows with a connection with St. Francis.

“Going through, I found a half-round or half-moon mosaic, but I didn’t know it was a mosaic, I thought it was a stained glass window?and I thought it was great,” he said. “The glass was set in wet concrete and it was arranged to look like a window, but when you shine light upon it, it is so vibrant, it bounces.’

Father Sepe said it was not until he personally visited the warehouse, which is the site of a former book bindery owned by the Daughters of St. Paul in Jamaica Plain, that he realized what it was. “They opened the crate and then I could see that it was not a window, but it was exquisite and I had to have it.”

The scene of the angels with the words: “Gloria Excelsis Deo,” recalled to the priest that it was St. Francis, who after his visit to the Holy Land, brought back the tradition of the live nativity display, which had faded in Europe, but was still alive in the East, he said.

St. Francis, “had this deep burning desire to propagate this live nativity, so people could see the baby in the manger and the humble beginnings of our salvation, so that chimed with me when I saw it,” said Father Sepe.

After the pastor had secured the angel mosaic, he said he wanted to continue with that theme. Continuing to walk through the warehouse, he found five windows.

Three widows depicted the archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, one with guardian angels holding candles and one of the Madonna with Child, with an angel dropping rosebuds, he said.

Father Sepe said, “I want to get the word out to the wonderful people up in Lawrence that these windows are being used to beautify our church and the good people in Jamaica Plain that this mosaic is being taken care of and seen the way it should be.”

Everyone is pleased with how the project turned out, said Linda M. Muldoon, the parish’s pastoral associate. “You walk in and you feel like you are in a holy place.”